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  1. #1
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    Wheel building...levels of difficulty?

    i want to rebuild a messed up wheel myself, but this is my first build. i would still have to buy all the tools and supplies. question is, on a first build, will i be able to build a 20/24 spoke wheel correctly and efficiently? i've heard that many people start with a 32+ spoke wheel. how difficult is it to build a 20/24? if i were to build it what tools do i absolutely need? so far things i need include, a truing stand, and spoke wrenches, along with spokes, and nipples...things i see as optional, but make the wheel better are a dishing tool, and a tension meter. or should i make the dishing tool and tension meter a must?

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    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    There was a similar recent thread where a lot of folks said that this is a bad idea for a first wheel because typically wheels with so few spokes all tend ot use deep V section rims. Such rims are so stiff on their own that they easily mask misbalances in the spoke tension. The reason the higher spoke count wheels are seen as a better starting point is because the typically smaller rim cross sections are easier to true up due to the rim being a lot more flexible. This is because a small misbalance of tension produces a relatively larter amount of axial runout whitch is easier to see.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  3. #3
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    Start with a grunt character. Build some basic and traditional huts. Kill a bad ogre or two that comes along and tries to interrupt the peace. Once it sinks in how the world works, upgrade your character to Genghis Khan and conquer the world.

    =8-)
    4000+ wheels built since 1984...

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    thanks for the reply, i have no clue if my rim uses a deep v section but they are ritchey wcs protocol wheels...i did do a search of "wheel building" but did not find much, and why i asked.

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    You should have a good spoke wrench. Some sort of stand to mount the wheel in for truing...this could be your bike's frame or a dedicated truing stand. There have been lots of discussions on the subject of whether a truing stand is necessary and there seem to be two general camps:

    1. Those who have sprung the cash for a truing stand and like to use it.
    2. Those who have not spring the cash for one and have gotten by just fine without one.

    A dishing gauge is a nice to have item. It helps give a no-fuss, objective way to see if your build is dished correctly.

    A spoke tension meter is also a nice to have item. Some will say you need one for a proper build, others have said they have built many a wheel without one.

    The dishing gauge and the tension meter help give the mechanic more objective measurments which SHOULD in theory provide a better build. There are many folks who have years of experience building wheels without some of these tools and their wheels are strong and last for thousands of miles. Wheel building can be viewed as an art...some have a natural talent to get things right, others need a more objective approach, and still others have talent but prefer to utilized an objective approach. The bottom line is you decide how much cash you want to lay down for tools.

    Regarding your comment that many people start with a 32spoke wheel....that is because that is one of the most common spoke counts and that is what most people have on hand or they are replacing their wheel with something similar. The theory is the same regardless of how many spokes you have. The area where different theories emerge is when you start to discuss how many crosses the spokes will have and what direction the pulling/pushing spokes should be oriented, etc. But even then the basic build and truing theory is still the same.

    Good luck.

    -j

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    With a low spoke count you should have a tensiometer because the wheel tension needs to be high. When you could still get the info from Trek they showed 130kg on the rear drive side spokes.

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    so. i decided to do it anyways. did everything correctly, now i am at the point where i put the tension back onto the spokes and true them...how do i know what tension to put them at? i didnt get the tension meter, since it was not at the store, but ended up with the truing stand, and spoke wrenches...i know some people do it to pitch and pluck the spokes. if anyone here plays a musical instrument and can give me the note/pitch/key whatever you want to call it, that would be very helpful, as i have some friends that will know what in the world you are talking about

  8. #8
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dooodstevenn View Post
    so. i decided to do it anyways. did everything correctly, now i am at the point where i put the tension back onto the spokes and true them...how do i know what tension to put them at? i didnt get the tension meter, since it was not at the store, but ended up with the truing stand, and spoke wrenches...i know some people do it to pitch and pluck the spokes. if anyone here plays a musical instrument and can give me the note/pitch/key whatever you want to call it, that would be very helpful, as i have some friends that will know what in the world you are talking about

    Check my site for Newb wheelbuilding tips . There's a link at the end for musical pitch and tension.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Check my site for Newb wheelbuilding tips . There's a link at the end for musical pitch and tension.
    Do yourself a favour spend the $65 and buy the tool that was designed for the job. It gives a repeatable and accurate absolute spoke tension regardless of the spoke type. As long as the tool is maintained and you are measuring properly it will serve you well. The less experience you have the more important it is you learn what proper tension is.
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

  10. #10
    Upstanding member. Mike T.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Do yourself a favour spend the $65 and buy the tool that was designed for the job. It gives a repeatable and accurate absolute spoke tension regardless of the spoke type. As long as the tool is maintained and you are measuring properly it will serve you well. The less experience you have the more important it is you learn what proper tension is.
    I'll stick with my 48 years of 100% wheelbuilding success rate with doing what I do thank ya very much. But as you're the argumentative type for the sake of arguing, my findings won't be good enough for you. Oh well. I'll live with that. Don't bother replying.

  11. #11
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    If a low spoke count wheel is supposed to have more tension than a regular 28 to 36 count wheel there would need to be some allowance for moving up a tone or two in that table. It's too bad that they just say "optimum tension" with no indication of how much that tension is at each note.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

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    Senior Member Tunnelrat81's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    I'll stick with my 48 years of 100% wheelbuilding success rate with doing what I do thank ya very much. But as you're the argumentative type for the sake of arguing, my findings won't be good enough for you. Oh well. I'll live with that. Don't bother replying.
    You do realize that he wasn't suggesting that YOU buy a tension gauge. The advice here is not being offered to those others offering advice, but to the inexperienced wheel builder asking for helpful suggestions, of which buying a $65 TM-1 appropriate and indeed helpful. Not every wheel building thread needs to be a pissing contest between those who've built wheels successfully in different ways.

    -Jeremy

  13. #13
    Senior Member mrrabbit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    I'll stick with my 48 years of 100% wheelbuilding success rate with doing what I do thank ya very much. But as you're the argumentative type for the sake of arguing, my findings won't be good enough for you. Oh well. I'll live with that. Don't bother replying.
    Mr. T,

    No one on this planet has a 100% wheelbuilding success rate. Myself at 2000+ wheels since 1984 admit to an occasional wheel returning for re-tensioning or even spoke replacement. NO ONE is PERFECT. PERIOD!

    Perhaps you'd like to clarify and qualify a tad?

    Recently I pointed out that someone needed to clarify .001 in. trueness for every wheel. When they pointed out that they removed rims even with minor flaws to insure .001 in., I shut my trap and moved on. Gave a question - got an honest answer...nothing further to say.


    =8-)
    4000+ wheels built since 1984...

    Disclaimer:

    1. I do not claim to be an expert in bicycle mechanics despite my experience.
    2. I like anyone will comment in other areas.
    3. I do not own the preexisting concepts of DISH and ERD.
    4. I will provide information as I always have to others that I believe will help them protect themselves from unscrupulous mechanics.
    5. My all time favorite book is:

    Kahane, Howard. Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in Everyday Life

  14. #14
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    I'll stick with my 48 years of 100% wheelbuilding success rate with doing what I do thank ya very much. But as you're the argumentative type for the sake of arguing, my findings won't be good enough for you. Oh well. I'll live with that. Don't bother replying.
    Yeah but you haven't been building 20 spoke wheels for 48 years have you?

    A few years ago I was asked to rebuild a Sweet 16 tandem wheel for a customer/friend. All of the components are special to that wheelset. Per the instructions that I received they take a TON of tension and the instructions also specified "walking" the spokes up to tension a few kpf at a time. No way would I have attempted that wheel build without a tensiometer.

    I built my first wheel 40 years ago and, while I doubt I've built 1,000 wheels I know for sure that I've laced hundreds. A lot of that expeience, however, simply doesn't apply to modern engineered wheelsets so I'm still learning new things all the time.

  15. #15
    Bikaholic blamp28's Avatar
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    I've built plenty of wheels though not thousands. I sure wouldn't want my first to have been a low spoke count boutique wheel. While learning, it would just be easier for you if you were building something like a 32 or 36 spoke wheel. As a new builder, I would highly recommend a tension meter. It's just good to check your work since you don't have experience to fall back on. I hardly use mine anymore but It comes in handy to validate or calibrate my hands and the "feel" I have for the correct tension. Since a low spoke count wheel would specify higher tension and layering or bringing that tension up gradually would be the prefered methode, the meter would help a bunch.

  16. #16
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    i didnt want to buy things online and couldnt find a tension meter at the store..but does it help if i have played a musical instrument for 6 years and know my pitches?

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    so i put some tension on it, stress relieved, and then threw it onto the truing stand to see where im at...i notticed it was wayy out of true, which doesnt worry me too much. im guessing i did not evenly tension it, but i will do that next, but at a certain spot, maybe 2-3 inches arround the wheel..i notticed the wheel is not dished correctly, and hits the stand. at this point, what are my options? also the spokes i have on seem too long, i have 2 out of the 20 that are digging into the nipple, just to get a bit of tension, i dont see how i can put tension on those 2 spokes up to the point of riding tension without forcing the bladed parts of the spokes into the nipples..

  18. #18
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dooodstevenn View Post
    so i put some tension on it, stress relieved, and then threw it onto the truing stand to see where im at...i notticed it was wayy out of true, which doesnt worry me too much. im guessing i did not evenly tension it, but i will do that next, but at a certain spot, maybe 2-3 inches arround the wheel..i notticed the wheel is not dished correctly, and hits the stand. at this point, what are my options? also the spokes i have on seem too long, i have 2 out of the 20 that are digging into the nipple, just to get a bit of tension, i dont see how i can put tension on those 2 spokes up to the point of riding tension without forcing the bladed parts of the spokes into the nipples..
    Try this:

    1. Tighten or loosen every single nipple until exactly 1 thread is showing. That way you're starting with all of the spokes even.
    2. Starting at the valve stem, tighten each spoke exactly 1/2 turn. Do that for 2 or 3 times around the wheel.
    3. When the spokes start to gain a little tension, cut your tensioning to 1/4 turn and continue as before.
    4. Plucking the spokes, if you have good musical pitch, will let you know when they are all equal, but I don't know what note corresponds to the right amount of tension.
    5. When you get the spokes up to adequate and even tension, true it by tightening and loosening opposing pairs of spokes an equal amount. That will minimize any spoke-to-spoke tension variation.

  19. #19
    headtube. zzyzx_xyzzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike T. View Post
    Check my site for Newb wheelbuilding tips . There's a link at the end for musical pitch and tension.
    from that page: "I stand behind the fact (I can prove it so it is a fact) that good wheels can be built without tensiometers but maybe even *I* would use one if I was building a 24 spoke wheel with Revolution spokes."

    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Do yourself a favour spend the $65 and buy the tool that was designed for the job. It gives a repeatable and accurate absolute spoke tension regardless of the spoke type.
    so you guys agree in this case

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    I'm a newbie compared with many but everybody has different methods, one of the things people didnt mention is the fact that the wheel will be as true as the rim is. Rims arent perfect and in many occasions no matter what you do, always there is a detail or a darn spoke that basically you have not touched and has less tension than the other ones. (i know, hammer and wood method)

    Old rims that arent machined have problems in the joints, how to fix that? with a darn hammer and pieces of wood. This is something you learn how to do and is pretty obvious but a hit wrong and maybe bye bye rim forever, Rims are harder than you can think anyways.

    Another thing i have noticed is that if the spokes are the right length the tension will get almost even right away and the rim will be almost at the center and almost true just after you finished putting the last spokes.

    In rear wheels start truing using the driver side 1st (laterally pulling the driver spokes 1st), once is true and center start working radial then lateral and so. Tension will get almost even magically, I found is easier and faster to true a rear wheel this way. Obviously does not apply to front wheels.

    And buy the dishing Gauge, that will be your best friend.

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    thanks for your help guys, i got the spokes to a correct pitch, and will begin truing tomorrow. i did practice on some old 32 spoke wheels, and got them really close to true, close enough that i had a hard time telling how much it was off on the truing stand, i assume u cannot keep an even tension while truing a wheel? can someone tell me if i am doing this right?..scenario: wheel is on stand, everything set up and what not...you nottice the wheel is curving right about 3mm inbetween 3 spokes, 1 left, 1 right, 1 left...with the rim going right i tighten the 1st left, loosen the right, then tighten the 2nd left.

  22. #22
    bike whisperer Kimmo's Avatar
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    If you're truing an old wheel without a tension meter, you don't really know where you're working from so it's almost impossible to get even tension just by truing.

    I'd recommend loosening all the spokes till a thread shows, and re-tensioning. I'd even be tempted to pull the rim and check it against a pane of glass, to eliminate that possible complication.

  23. #23
    Senior Member BCRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dooodstevenn View Post
    thanks for your help guys, i got the spokes to a correct pitch, and will begin truing tomorrow........
    This is a fundemental mistake right off the bat. The tensioning and trueing needs to be done at the same time. You can't do one without paying attention to the other.

    At this point I'd suggest you ease the tension in 1/2 turn stages with 3 to 4 passes around the wheel. Recheck for a fairly even musical note all around and then begin truing. Once trued fairly closely do a tensioning pass around the wheel adding a 1/4 turn of tension on the nipples. Find and correct any of the worst trueness issues that cropped up as a result and correct those. Recheck for an even musical tone all around. Correct as required. Now make another tensioning pass around the wheel for another 1/4 turn of the nipples. Recheck and correct for true. Repeat, repeat and repeat again until you sneak up on the correct tension and final trueness as indicated by all the spokes being within a note of the musical tone you're aiming for since you're not using a tensionometer and an acceptable true.
    Model airplanes are cool too!.....

  24. #24
    Senior Member Chombi's Avatar
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    I've on built up a nhadful of wheels in my life, but am continually getting better at it. Started with 36 spoke, cross three wheels to replace the OEM rims that came with my 84 Peugeot PSV. pretty easy as I just transferred the spoke/ hubs, spoke by spke by laying th new rims aginst the old one....and handed them to the LBS to true and tension. Did a few more of those for my bike and my brother's back in the mid 80's to 90's. Did a complete build-up last year with Mavid hubs and 32H GEL280 rims with SS DT butted spokes. Took my time and got them built easier that I expected....Then I decided to tackle a new build using 28H Wolber aero Profil 20 rims, oval SS DT spokes and Stronglight Delta hubs. It was a whole different story sith that one as spoke twist suddenly becomes an issue in a big way, as the oval spokes either just makes spoke twist more evident during tensioning, or oval spokes are just easier to twist. Took me about twice the time to build the aero wheels with the oval spokes than the "regular" non-aero wheelset before it . Pretty much wore out my fingers trying to fight the spoke twist wen I tensioned up the wheel, regardless of the lubrication I used on the nipples. tried to find and buy a spoke tension meter from the bike shops around me, but none of them sells it or even use them. One shop did have one hanging on their tool wall rack, but they don't even use them. All of them told me that they do it by "feel" and tone. So far my wheels have been holding up so I think I'm OK......

    Chombi

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    Quote Originally Posted by BCRider View Post
    This is a fundemental mistake right off the bat. The tensioning and trueing needs to be done at the same time. You can't do one without paying attention to the other.

    At this point I'd suggest you ease the tension in 1/2 turn stages with 3 to 4 passes around the wheel. Recheck for a fairly even musical note all around and then begin truing. Once trued fairly closely do a tensioning pass around the wheel adding a 1/4 turn of tension on the nipples. Find and correct any of the worst trueness issues that cropped up as a result and correct those. Recheck for an even musical tone all around. Correct as required. Now make another tensioning pass around the wheel for another 1/4 turn of the nipples. Recheck and correct for true. Repeat, repeat and repeat again until you sneak up on the correct tension and final trueness as indicated by all the spokes being within a note of the musical tone you're aiming for since you're not using a tensionometer and an acceptable true.
    well yesterday i took about 2 hrs tuning the spokes to the same pitch, and the wheel was still untrue. thats why i assumed you tension til a bit below riding tension, then true, and take tension up again..but you're pretty much saying, i should tune, true, tune, true, repeat as necessary til correct tension?

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